I’m sometimes asked whether I think the No Contact Rule works.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the No Contact Rule refers to ceasing all contact with your ex for about 30 days after a breakup.
You don’t text, you don’t comment on his posts, you don’t ask his friends about him, and you avoid one another in real life and on social media.
The rule became the norm for two very different situations:
- Situations where any contact with your ex is toxic to your mental health, or
- Situations where you want to get your ex back.
But the rule has become so popular that it is now considered basic breakup protocol in many circles.
If you didn’t know about this rule, you might wonder why you’re being ghosted by your ex. Why isn’t he responding to your texts? It’s not like you’re trying to get him back or anything.
Knowing about the No Contact Rule can help you feel a little better, even if you still don’t think his behavior is very polite.
Should you practice the No Contact Rule yourself?
When is it helpful, and when is it hurtful?
Let’s find out!
How the No Contact Rule Works
When a relationship ends, the feelings can be so intense.
You’re confused, you’re upset, you’re angry, and you’re feeling so lost.
Even though you may not want him back, your heart yearns for connection and reassurance from the one person who’s no longer going to give it to you.
Because of that intensity, any communication in the early days of a breakup is going to get messy. It’s going to stir up a lot of emotions. You might find yourself being pulled back into fighting.
Every time you talk to him, your heart tells you this isn’t over. Maybe there’s a chance to fix it. See? There’s still an emotional pull between you; otherwise, he wouldn’t still be talking.
Remaining in contact with your ex under these circumstances is doing you more harm than good.
It’s like you’ve slapped a Band-Aid over the gaping wound in your heart. Each time you have contact with him, you’re ripping it off again.
You need some separation to get used to the idea that you’re no longer together. You need to break yourself of the habit of emotionally relying on him.
The No Contact Rule gives you something to focus on when everything in you just wants to pick up the phone and text him, or give in when he suggests coming over at midnight to “talk.”
It’s an absolute rule. You are not doing no contact if you seek information about him from other people.
Properly doing no contact means removing any reminders of him from your environment. No looking at old pictures, no wearing the sweatshirt he left behind, no stalking him on social media.
You don’t have to delete his number from your phone, but you might want to rename it so you don’t see his name as you scroll through your messages. Similarly, you don’t have to unfriend him on social, but you’ll want to unfollow him so you don’t see his posts.
You’re making a clean break.
When No Contact Helps
No contact works when it enables you to set the boundaries you need to heal. It’s a kindness to yourself and a kindness to him.
At its best, the No Contact Rule puts a secure bandage over that wound in your heart. That bandage is not coming off for at least 30 days. You’re going to leave that wound alone and trust that it will start healing on its own if you don’t poke at it.
Not having any reminders of him in your life helps supercharge the healing process.
You’re quicker to accept that it’s over. You’re quicker to find new forms of support to replace his emotional support. You’re quicker to remember what you liked about your old life before you got together with him.
You have more energy to focus on yourself and your new life, and more space in your head when you’re not feeding thoughts of him.
When No Contact Hurts
If you look for information about the No Contact Rule online, you might see it described differently.
It’s often presented as a way to manipulate the other person.
It can feel good to cut off all contact with your ex as a way of punishing them for breaking up with you.
These sites describe how the No Contact Rule can drive your ex crazy. At first your ex is just fine. He’s filled with satisfaction for the way he handled the situation.
Then, the longer he doesn’t hear from you, the more he starts to wonder what’s really going on. He’s certain you’re missing him. But you’re not trying to get in contact. Why?
So he shoots you a text, probably something magnanimous, to show that there are no hard feelings and he’s hoping you’re doing well.
And you don’t reply.
At first he brushes it off. You’re probably still mad at him.
So he engineers another form of contact. He comments on one of your posts. He bumps into you at a party.
When you still refuse to engage, he gets mad. Now he feels personally affronted that you’re not talking to him.
Do you see how this kind of drama is keeping you emotionally engaged with your ex?
It can be satisfying to know that your ex is hurting as much as he hurt you, but it holds back your healing.
Your job after a breakup is to look after that sore, tender heart of yours with all the love and compassion you can manage.
So go no contact if it feels like the kindest way to disentangle your life from his. But don’t do it as a way to hurt or manipulate.
I’m 73 and my fiancé is 83. We had so much fun and we’re so in love I thought but then we started have arguments over stupid things. We built a condo and was moving in on the 5th and he asked me to leave because he said he did not think it was going work and he said we were not compatible. I’m crushed you just don’t fall out of love over night.
I’m sorry to hear this, Patricia.
You’re probably right. It’s unlikely he suddenly stopped loving you.
What’s more likely is that he still loves you, but is fleeing from conflict. Some people have extraordianrily low tolerance for conflict. Especially us men. We tend to get emotionally flooded, shut down, and stonewall rather than work it out.
He is more focused on avoiding what he doesn’t want (conflict) than on pursuing what he doesn’t want (sharing life with you).
I was dating for a year. One morning I went into his phone and shut the alarm off, he was planning to leave at 4;30am we got up at 6am. I told him I shut it because I planned to be intimate before he left but I fell back to sleep myself. He was so angry. When I txted him after one week he said what’s done is what’s done. Now it’s been 3 weeks and no word from him. Did he really break things off this way? I have lots of belonging at his place. Why don’t he just txt come get your stuff? Will your 12 word txt work on him?
I’m in love with my ex but I’m married
Ex and I hooked up but then said we’re just friends after he says I love u
I want him back but he doesn’t want to be with anyone
What to do to get my ex back?
After an off and on relationship for 4 years. Him breaking up with me for another girl, his girlfriend, saying I cannot be in a relationship. I can’t be loyal, I need freedom! And now he blocked me on Instagram so i can’t see all girls he is following! Help omg this is the worst to be blocked now! I g it is over! I feel used, sad..,
Hey, Mia. Of those who say they want a relationship, commitment, and loyalty, not all actually do. But in my experience, among those who say they do not want commitment or exclusivity, 100% of them do not want it.
This leads me to believe that you are better off putting a man like that in your rearview mirror and clearing space for the right kind of guy to enter your life.
How do I maintain no contact rule when we separate and he is staying with our young children? We need to speak about thier health and school and other related issues. Also how do we keep the no contact rule if we decide that the relationship is over but still stay in the same house although with no physical touch or day time calls and texts but we see each other at end of the day after work as we prepare to transition into different homes.
Hi, Kayla. Naturally this is a choice you have to make. If you decide the practical realities necessitate living together and the current benefit of that arrangement outweighs the benefits of having space to be a part, then you have to manage the best way you can. And no, this particular strategy will not work when you are coparenting. It is for situations that do not involve shared custody of children.
Please take good care of yourself during this period of transition. It’s not selfish to pull away and spend time looking after your own emotional needs if that helps you to show up as a happier version of mom who does a better job of connecting emotionally with your kids.
Always on your side,